Word Count Guidelines

It's not a kiss-of-death thing to have a word count that's outside the norms for traditional publishing, but it will close some doors. Longer books are more expensive to make and less of them fit on store shelves. With budgets slashed, you can see why publishers will think twice about taking on large books. If they've got two equally good books, but one is going to be over budget, you can bet they'll take the cheaper-to-produce one. If given the choice of two books of equal price and interest, most readers will choose the longer thinking that it's a greater value because they get more words for a lower price.

A few caveats:

1. These are just suggested word counts. There are always exceptions to the rules. Authors with many books or those later in a well-selling series are apt to have more leeway, while debut authors will be expected to adhere more firmly. Different publishers (and their imprints) will have different word count guidelines.

2. These suggested word counts apply mostly to authors seeking a traditionally published book. Self-publishing authors can have whatever word counts they like, although readers will have expectations that full books be the length of full books and that your higher word counts are necessary and not just for the sake of word count. Good editing is paramount.

3. When in doubt for YA and up, aim for 80k. It's a bit on the short side for high averaged counts, and a bit on the low side for the higher, but if you aim for 80k you're likely to fall somewhere in the middle. Read a lot of recently published books in your genre to figure out the average counts and go from there. You can also look up word counts in Amazon's "look inside" previews or by searching here for YA/MG books.

4. Back when manuscripts were printed out and mailed around, the easiest way to calculate word count was to count the pages and multiply that by 250. But now that we have Word's word count at the bottom of our screens we no longer have to rely on that tactic. The following counts are based on Word's word count.

Average Word Counts

Micro-Fiction - up to 100 words
Flash Fiction - 100 - 1,000 words, usually no more than 500.
Short Story - 1,000 - 7,500 words
Novellette - 7,500 - 18,000 words
Novella -20,000 - 45,000 words
General Novel - 50,000 -110,000

Genre Guidelines

Picture Books -200-500 words
Early Readers - 500-2000 words
Chapter Books - 5,000-10,000 words
Middle Grade - 25,000-45,000 words, most averaging 35k.
Young adult - 55,000-90,000 words
 - YA contemporary tends to be on the shorter side, 60-70k
 - YA fantasy, sci-fi, and paranormal tends to fall on the longer side due to world building, 70-90k
Adult - 70,000-115,000 words
 - Romance - 85,000-100,000 words
 - Cozy Mysteries - 70,000-85,000 words
 - Mysteries, Horror, Crime - 75,000-95,000 words, most averaging 90k
 - Sci-fi and Fantasy - 80,000-120,000 words, most averaging 100k-115k
 - Literary and Women's Fiction - 80,000-100,000 words

The following are just a quick sample of word counts from mostly YA books that I've read (and enjoyed!) recently. You can see that some MG is high, some YA low, and you must take into account the number of books previously published by these authors. The first Harry Potter, a MG, was high at 77k, but the final book, a YA, was super high at 198k. But by then Rowling could have written a 500,000 word book and no one would probably question her. In fact, I think most fans would have loved to have had 300k in extra story, hence the success of Pottermore (I'm WillowCharm13 if you want to add me!)

MG Historical

Between Shades of Gray
Author: Sepetys, Ruta
Word Count: 64750

MG Fantasy

Magyk (Septimus Heap, Book 1)
Author: Sage, Angie
Word Count: 112921

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
Author: Rowling, J.K.
Word Count: 77325

YA Fantasy

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Author: Rowling, J.K.
Word Count: 198227

The Dark and Hollow Places
Author: Ryan, Carrie
Word Count: 103474

YA Fantasy: Dystopian

Author: Julia Karr
Word Count: 84,442

Author: Veronica Roth
Word Count: 105,143

YA Paranormal

Author: Karsten Knight
Word Count: 91,046

YA Sci-fi

Across the Universe
Author: Beth Revis
Word Count: 98,469

YA Contemporary

Where She Went
Author: Gayle Forman
Word Count: 55,415

And Then Things Fall Apart
Author: Arlaina Tibensky
Word Count: 54,196

Like Mandarin
Author: Kirsten Hubbard
Word Count: 66,561

Keep Sweet
Author: Michele Dominguez Greene
Word Count: 56,719

Invincible Summer
Author: Hannah Moskowitz
Word Count: 51,295

But I Love Him
Author: Amanda Grace (Mandy Hubbard)
Word Count: 51,089

Beauty Queens
Author: Libba Bray
Word Count: 105,103



Comments disabled. Why not engage on twitter instead? @OnlyCassandra